In an era where the boundaries of music are continuously pushed, shattered, and then some, the global collective known as Sick Jokes emerged as a profound testament to the boundless possibilities of modern collaboration. With members scattered over thousands of miles, each involved in diverse musical ventures, their latest offering is a short but tidy and explosive package.
“Je pense a ta vie” is repeated in a softly whispered fashion amid a backdrop of ethereal pianos and an amalgam of ambient sounds over the intro track of this EP, Sick Jokes’ sequel to 2020’s MMXX and counterpart to the earlier EP The Great Hereafter. “This is the Beginning” then takes the reigns and is immediately invigorating, the whole track a delicious punch in the face. It’s a convergence of each contributor’s distinct musical elements, seamlessly blending Shira of Shiragirls’ dynamic livewire vocals, tight metallic percussion akin to Pop Will Eat Itself, and lyrics that allude to extraterrestrial encounters. Indeed, when lines like “There’s a Martian in the cornfield” are sung, whacked through some overdrive and mixed lovingly over heavy and crisp guitar work, it feels a lot like the fun edge of ‘90s industrial again. “Dimmer” then sounds like the fallout of the aforementioned apocalypse, introducing fresh melodic and harmonic concepts and maintaining a deliberate, steady pace. This is guided by a superb bassline, which interplays marvelously with Kate Hinote’s velvety, expressive vocals, both of which provide a soothing contrast to the underlying sense of resignation and despair provided by the backing vocals. “I Would Die 4 U” features the stellar vocals of Rona Rougeheart of SINE and is almost dirge-pop in its offerings, manifesting a unique fusion of influences.
The remixes and reinterpretations featured come from some impressive contributors. The Stabbing Westward remix of “This is the Beginning” skirts on classic EBM territory, marked with the telltale flanged synth, while John Fryer’s take on “Dimmer” turns the song inside out and makes it a whole new beast. The Decompiler and EXT EST remixes of “This is the Beginning” are notably both a good few paces away from straightlaced remixes. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear the concept of a remix pushed beyond its usual bounds of the same structure with some slightly different synths, and the experimentation on both is nothing short of electric. With a crisp, well-produced sound, Age of Anxiety is hopefully just the aforementioned beginning – a solid EP that is sure to please.